Disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman declared this morning that he’s ready to have another go at whacking Sound Transit and WSDOT’s Amtrak Cascades, exuberantly telling his followers that he’s launching an initiative to slash vehicle fees to thirty dollars and deprive Washington of billions of dollars in transit funding.
I‑976 is a measure to the 2019 Legislature, not to the people for 2018, so it won’t appear on this November’s ballot. The signature deadline is in late December.
“Yup, that’s right. We’re off and running to get the required number of signatures to get Initiative 976 on the ballot,” wrote Eyman, who recently announced that he would try to qualify an unrelated measure, Initiative 977, for 2019.
I‑977 sought apply the Public Records Act, as currently written, to the Washington State House and Senate, which have historically asserted they’re exempt.
It appears I‑977 has already been abandoned after less than two weeks, which has to be a new record (usually, Eyman’s time-to-fail is measured in months, not days).
What accounts for the sudden change in plans? In a word, money. What else?
Eyman tried twice in 2016 to force a vote on gutting funding for Sound Transit and Amtrak Cascades. Both times, he failed. Then he tried again last year, investing more time and energy into his attempt. But he came up short, again.
I‑976 represents his fourth attempt in three years to qualify.
“We failed to qualify… for a vote last year,” Eyman acknowledged in his message, not bothering to mention the two 2016 attempts that preceded that failure.
“There’s two reasons we fell short: 1) We needed more time. 2) We needed a whole lot more money to hire paid petitioners to supplement our volunteers.”
Actually, all he needed was that money.
With enough money, it’s possible to get anything on the ballot with a quick multi-week signature drive. Even an initiative to ban that dangerous substance dihydrogen monoxide — also known as, ahem, water — would be easy to qualify in Washington State. Though many locally-based petitioners won’t have anything to do with Eyman and are reasonably discriminating about who they will work for, out of state signature gatherers will happily carry petitions for an Eyman measure.
And Eyman is happy to bring them here.
Despite what Eyman says in the excerpt below, newfound access to money is the only reason why it makes sense to reattempt a measure that has already failed to qualify three times, and hastily abandon the plan to go ahead with I‑977.
There’s two reasons why we’re trying again this year:
- We have more time. Last year, we started in mid-July — this time we’re starting in mid-April. That’s an extra 3 months. So for I‑976, we have from now until the end of December to collect the 350,000 signatures needed — that’s 8 full months starting now.
- We already have half the money we need, but it’s absolutely critical that we raise the other half as soon as possible. Having $500,000 at the beginning of the signature drive for I‑976 allows us to hire paid petitioners right away (they were actually out collecting signatures over the weekend). But to keep them out there, we gotta raise another $500,000 as soon as possible.
LET US BE CLEAR: we still want our volunteers to collect signatures because every signature you collect is one less signature we have to pay a professional to get. But we didn’t make it last year with just our volunteers. We fell short. So we need professional petitioners and that requires raising a lot of money.
On Friday morning, the paid petitioning guys picked up 20,000 petitions from a local printer to get started.
If Eyman’s claim of having half a million dollars in seed money isn’t a fabrication, then he is on his way to restarting his initiative factory with I‑976, despite facing four lawsuits from the State of Washington for public disclosure law violations.
Eyman’s recent fundraising from small dollar donors has been absolutely anemic, so the $500,000 he claims to have (if he really has it) would have to have come from a wealthy benefactor. In the past, Eyman has received huge sums for his schemes from whales such as investment banker Michael Dunmire (now deceased), Bellevue Collection owner Kemper Freeman, Jr. (who also despises Sound Transit), real estate developer Clyde Holland, and hedge fund manager Kenneth Fisher.
Eyman said nothing about the source of his money in today’s email. Public disclosure law requires that Eyman identify who his benefactor is within several weeks so that Washingtonians can know who’s trying to influence their vote (or obtain their signature), so Eyman won’t be able to keep the source of his money a secret for very long. Unless he brazenly violates the law again, that is.
It’s a shame to think that someone has once again made the mistake of entrusting Eyman with a lot of money. He has proved time and again that he can’t be trusted with money. But some people, as we have been reminded a lot recently, never learn.
At NPI, we know the price of progress is eternal vigilance, which is why we maintain a project called Permanent Defense. To have the highest chance of success, an opposition campaign to a destructive Eyman initiative must start immediately. Today, therefore, is the first day of the NO on I‑976 campaign. We will be working hard to assemble a broad coalition to protect our voter-approved transit projects and investments in freedom of mobility, which benefit communities across our state.
If you encounter a petitioner who asks you to sign I‑976, please report your encounter to us immediately through our Permanent Defense project.